We all know we're going to the NCAA Tournament, and that is good. We're one of the few teams that knows it is set no matter what happens in the Big Ten Tournament. We can go out and lose to Iowa again by 75 and we will still be in the tournament. All that remains is our seeding.
We had a chance at a 1 seed, but lost it with the shocking loss to Iowa. The general consensus so far seems to be that we will be either one of the final two seeds or a higher three seed. If you follow S-curves and such, that could be somewhat beneficial. Say we are the 8th best team in the tournament, meaning the lowest two seed. That would put us in with possibly Ohio State, who will probably be the #1 overall seed. We've already beaten them (maybe twice by then) we'll have confidence in any third or fourth meeting.
Also, if we're the 8th best team we'll be paired with "the top #3 seed". That means there probably isn't a lot of difference between a 2 and a 3 at this point. I tend to think we're still on the happy side of being a 2 seed, with an early Big Ten Tournament loss dropping us to a three. Here is how I see the tournament seeding playing out in regards to the top three seeds (or top 12 teams).
#1 Seed locks: Ohio State, Kansas
These two can really do nothing to lose a #1 seed at this point.
Probable #1 seeds: Pittsburgh, Duke
These two teams are probably safe as long as they avoid a bad conference tournament loss. Notre Dame could catch and pass Pittsburgh if they beat them on the way to a Big East Tournament title. Duke would cement their #1 seed if they beat North Carolina in the ACC Tournament. File both of these two in the: It is there's to lose" category.
No Worse than a 2 seed, could earn a 1: Notre Dame, North Carolina
I can see these two teams stealing Pittsburgh and Duke's seeds respectively if they beat them in their conference tournaments. Notre Dame beating Pitt would give them two wins over the Panthers. North Carolina over Duke would give them a 2-1 edge over the Blue Devils. The Tar Heels especially seem to be the highest rising team of late. I don't see how they lose out on at least a two seed. The Fighting Irish won't drop, either. North Carolina's worst loss, at Georgia Tech, is on par with us losing at Iowa, so our profiles are close. They are playing damn fine basketball right now though.
Before getting into the rest of the teams battling for the other two #2 seeds, let's place these teams in terms of where they will play their first two games. The committee will try to give them the "protected seed" status and have them play close to home. I am not going to worry about the regional finals side of things here.
Ohio State - Cleveland
Pittsburgh - Cleveland
Kansas - Tulsa
Duke - Charlotte
North Carolina - Charlotte
Notre Dame - Chicago
So, under my reasoning, Cleveland and Charlotte are already full of their two "protected seeds, with Tulsa and Chicago each having one spot left and Denver, Tampa, Tucson and Washington, DC each having two spots. Here are the teams battling for the two #2 seeds with their respective profiles.
Record vs. RPI Top 25: 2-3
Record vs. RPI Top 50: 4-3
Record vs. RPI Top 100: 16-5
Worst loss: at 167 Iowa
Our Boilers have a very solid profile despite the Iowa loss. That loss was still only by two points with E`Twaun Moore battling illness and Purdue having a horrible day shooting the basketball. It also helps that Wisconsin and Ohio State struggled at the Hawkeyes. If Iowa can beat Michigan State on Thursday and give Purdue a shot at redemption that might help, but it would also hurt as MSU currently is #50 in the RPI. A loss to Iowa would surely cost Purdue two top 50 wins because they would fall out, though Penn State (#54) Michigan (#56) and Oakland (#58) could move up.
I think we lose any chance at a two seed if we lose our Friday game, especially if it is to Iowa. If it is to Michigan State we'll be at the mercy of what else happens around the country in terms of conference tournaments. Should Sparty go on to win the Big Ten Tourney it could be good. Our best bet is to win regardless, though personally I'd rather face Iowa and redeem ourselves. If we reach the final, going through Wisconsin in the process, I think we lock in a two seed.
San Diego State Aztecs
Record vs. RPI Top 25: 2-2
Record vs. RPI Top 50: 5-2
Record vs. RPI Top 100: 11-2
Worst loss: vs. 4 BYU
The Aztecs are an interesting case. Do you slot them behind BYU, or ahead of them because the Cougars could get their seed Hummeled? Much of that depends on what happens in the Mountain West. Does SDSU have to beat BYU to pass them or do they do it if BYU suffers a Minnesota-esque loss to someone else? The two top 25 RPI wins are both against UNLV, who sits on the border at 25. It is possible they could get two more if they beat BYU and UNLV.
Unfortunately, BYU and UNLV are the only stone cold lock tourney teams they have played. Purdue has Ohio State, Wisconsin, West Virginia and Indiana State as locks, with Illinois, Michigan State, Michigan, Oakland, Penn State, and Richmond as possible/probable teams. SDSU has... Colorado State, St. Mary's, Gonzaga, and maybe IUPUI if they upset Oakland in the Summit League tourney. Sorry Aztecs, but Purdue's profile is better.
Record vs. RPI Top 25: 6-0
Record vs. RPI Top 50: 9-1
Record vs. RPI Top 100: 11-3
Worst loss: vs. 71 New Mexico
What will the Brandon Davies factor be? We've seen them play two games without him and it has followed almost exactly like Purdue without Robbie Hummel last year. They lost to a good team (New Mexico) and throttled a bad one (Wyoming). How is that different from our Michigan State-Indiana split last year after losing Hummel? They have a ton of great wins, but like us with Hummel, theirs were with Davies. They are a #1 seed caliber team with him, just as we were with Hummel last year.
If BYU recovers to run through the Mountain West I can see them being in the discussion for a 1 seed, but if they suffer another breakdown like they did against New Mexico they could fall to a three. They went 6-1 against the NCAA locks on their schedule (SDSU twice, Utah State, Arizona, UNLV twice, lost to UCLA). I think I'll leave them at a solid 2 right now, with the possibility to drop with a bad conference tourney loss.
Record vs. RPI Top 25: 3-2
Record vs. RPI Top 50: 10-2
Record vs. RPI Top 100: 15-3
Worst loss: vs. 148 Jacksonville
Our profile compared to Florida's is closer than I thought, mostly because I was shocked to see Tennessee and Georgia as top 50 teams. They went 4-0 against them. Vanderbilt is sitting at 26 and they swept the Commodores, so they could move up and give the Gators two more top 25 wins. When you look at Florida's losses, however, they are much worse. They lost by 18 at home to Ohio State (and we beat the Buckeyes at home). The loss to Kentucky is not bad, but let's look at the other four losses. One is to Central Florida on a neutral floor, and the Golden Knights absolutely fell off a cliff after a 14-0 start, losing eight in a row. The other three Florida losses are to sub.-100 teams Mississippi State, South Carolina, and Jacksonville. Two of those came at home too. I think a three point home loss to Jacksonville is much, much worse than our two point loss to Iowa.
I think Florida needs to win the SEC Tournament in convincing fashion to get a two, but they are a solid three at the moment.
Record vs. RPI Top 25: 5-6
Record vs. RPI Top 50: 8-9
Record vs. RPI Top 100: 10-9
Worst loss: vs. 33 Cincinnati
With all respect to the Hoyas, it would really piss me off to see them get a 2 seed with 10 losses, assuming they lose in the Big East Tournament. They don't have what you would consider a bad loss, however, and a Big East Tournament title would certainly vault them into the discussion based on the sheer amount of good wins they would rack up. They have played the nation's toughest schedule, but their current best victory is over Utah State. I have to give them credit for solid non-conference wins over Missouri, Utah State, and Old Dominion. They are bizarro Michigan State in that they have played a tough schedule, but they at least beat a few of the good teams they played. I think they have the most to do in order to earn a two because of the grind that is the Big East Tournament, but they have a chance at a two at least.
Record vs. RPI Top 25: 2-4
Record vs. RPI Top 50: 5-6
Record vs. RPI Top 100: 13-7
Worst loss: at 54 Penn State
I really thought Wisconsin could overtake us for a #2 seed consideration and the second protected spot in Chicago until Ohio State handed them their ass yesterday. Now I am not so sure. This is a completely different team away from the Kohl Center. They have whiffed in all four chances against top 25 teams away from home (Purdue, Ohio State, UNLV, Notre Dame). They may have the most games in the country against fellow two seed or better teams, and they are 2-3 in such games.
If it comes down to one game to decide the last two seed and protected seed spot in Chicago the Big Ten Tournament semi-final between Purdue and Wisconsin will probably decideit. It depends on how things look by that Saturday and what else happens elsewhere, but if the Badgers beat Penn State to get there and Purdue beats Michigan State those are two similar victories. Our worst loss is worse than theirs, so a rubber match after a head-to head split could decide it, especially if Wisconsin rises because of an early BYU loss in the Mountain West tourney. By the time of any Purdue-Wisconsin game in Indy we will possibly know the final profiles of Georgetown, BYU, SDSU, and Florida. Wisconsin can still play their way to a two if they win the Big Ten Tourney and get a second win over Purdue and Ohio State along the way.
Record vs. RPI Top 25: 2-3
Record vs. RPI Top 50: 7-3
Record vs. RPI Top 100: 11-6
Worst loss: at 79 Nebraska
I think of Texas and I keep discounting their seed because they are coached by Rick Barnes. I can't help it. No coach does less with more talent on a regular basis, especially in the NCAA Tournament. I also keep thinking of Gary Parrish calling them a surefire Final Four lock last year when we were undefeated with them, then Barnes drove them into a wall, an 8-9 game in the NCAA's, and a first round loss.
That top 50 profile can't be ignored though, especially if they go through Kansas in the Big 12 Tournament. Do their recent losses to Nebraska and Colorado hurt equally or more than ours to Iowa? I guess if you add up RPI's. They have beaten Kansas (one of two teams to do so like us with Ohio State). They've also beaten a few teams we have beaten in Illinois and Michigan State. I can't help but look at the Colorado loss, when they were up by 15 in the second half, and think epic choke. At least we were tied with Iowa at halftime and already locked in a tough game.
Breaking Down the Protected Seed Placements:
I think I have successfully named the 12 teams above that will have a 1, 2, or 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament. It is possible Kentucky or Arizona could jump in here yet, but I am trying to concern myself with teams that can be considered for a 2 seed. Here is how I would seed the tournament and place teams based on profiles and where the teams are right now:
Ohio State: 1 seed in Cleveland (#1 seed overall)
Kansas: 1 seed in Tulsa (#2 seed overall)
Pittsburgh: 1 seed in Cleveland (#3 seed overall)
Duke: 1 seed in Charlotte (#4 seed overall)
Notre Dame: 2 seed in Chicago (#5 seed overall)
North Carolina: 2 seed in Charlotte (#6 seed overall)
BYU: 2 seed in Denver (#7 seed overall)
Purdue: 2 seed in Chicago (#8 seed overall)
Florida: 3 seed in Tampa (#9 seed overall)
San Diego State: 3 seed in Tucson (#10 seed overall)
Texas: 3 seed in Tulsa (#11 seed overall)
Wisconsin: 3 seed in Washington DC (#12 seed overall)
Georgetown: 4 seed in Tampa (#13 seed overall, cannot play in DC as Host)
Kentucky: 4 seed in Washington DC (#14 seed overall)
Arizona: 4 seed in Denver (#15 seed overall, cannot play in Tucson as Host)
Syracuse: 4 seed in Tucson (#16 seed overall)